In quiet moments alone, she daydreamed of him.

She kept busy, of course. There was a peace to the Library now that hadn't been there before; she had real hope now, not just wishful thinking, and it allowed her to live a fuller life there. She enjoyed taking care of the children, enjoyed wandering through the books, enjoyed having tea with her team. Enjoyed imagining his return.

There were favorite scenarios she had dreamt up. Most of the time, she would be doing something mundane: gardening or reading in the sun or sipping lemonade on the grass while the children played. The best ones always took place outside, in that same bright sunlight that had been present when she had first entered the data core. She would turn around, and there he'd be, smiling that boyish-yet-knowing smile at him. Sometimes he would speak before she saw him; sometimes one of the children would see him first and gleefully point him out.

"Hi, honey. I'm home."

And she would walk to him, or run to him, wrap her arms around him and kiss him soundly. They had been blessed with so many beautiful moments in their time together; it wasn't unrealistic for her dreams of his return to be like something out of a fairy tale. They were all fairy tales in the end, weren't they?

Then again, he never did anything as expected.

She shouldn't have been surprised to hear a crash and a muffled 'ow' come from the kitchen in the middle of the night. The children had been asleep for over an hour; her first thought was that one of them had snuck downstairs for something, but when she cracked the door to their room open, they were all just as she had left them. Before River closed the door, Charlotte opened her eyes and smiled knowingly before closing them again.

River's heart caught in her throat, and she stared at Charlotte for a moment longer before shutting the door quietly. She padded quickly down the stairs and stopped at the foot for a moment; a light glowed suddenly from the kitchen, followed by the sound of broken glass being carefully picked up, a quiet, steady clink...clink...clink that echoed in the otherwise still house. As softly as she could, she crept towards the kitchen.

He was crouched on the floor with his back to her, his shoulders encased in the brown tweed she was used to rather than the dark purple she'd last seen him in, and her breath stilled for a moment at the sight. He had apparently knocked a vase of flowers off the table, breaking it at the neck; the bottom was in one hand, and he was gingerly filling it, scavenging for broken pieces among the water and scattered stems on the floor. As she watched, he turned in a circle, still crouched, so that the movement was reminiscent of a duck waddling, and she couldn't help herself; she laughed out loud, then put her hand to her mouth to stifle herself.

The Doctor straightened up quickly, surprised, then sheepish. "Oops," he said, glancing at the pile of glass in his hand before quickly setting it down on the table and brushing his hand off gently on his trousers. He stepped over the flowers still littering the tile, then looked back up at her, a soft smile playing around his face. He took a deep breath before holding his arms wide.

"Hi, honey. I'm home."

River opened her mouth, intent on responding with her customary 'and what sort of time do you call this?', but found she couldn't speak. Tears welled in her eyes suddenly, and she rushed forward, closing the gap between them in the space of two heartbeats and kissing him hungrily. He wrapped his arms around her waist tightly, lifting her onto her tiptoes and holding her to him, intent on never letting go again.

Later on, as she lay curled against his side in what would be their bed from then on, her head resting on his chest as he lazily stroked his fingers through her hair, she would smile to herself. It hadn't been at all like she dreamt it...but that didn't make the moment any less beautiful.